April 30, 2015

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

These little darlings were adapted (extremely minimally) from Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake. I must confess, 99% of the work that went into making these was my friend James, and I mostly provided the kitchen space, air traffic control, some washing up, and (she said optimistically) engaging banter. Well, and the butter icing recipe. And some bossiness, which was part of the package deal, because I cannot shut up in the kitchen, it turns out.

The cupcakes themselves turned out very nicely, with a good texture - tender, with a nice even crumb and a desirable bit of springiness - and the recipe is quite generous, which meant we got 24 cupcakes out of a recipe originally for a single 10-inch springform pan. And, of course, a shorter baking time.

The icing in the original recipe is a cream cheese version, which I really don't care for at all (despite being a fan, generally, of both cream cheese and icing). There is literally no instance of cream cheese frosting that I think wouldn't be better served by a butter icing, and that includes carrot cake (if you must), red velvet cake, and cinnamon buns. Further, James had brought a bottle of Orange Truffle Bailey's specifically to use in the icing, and so it made much more sense to use an icing recipe whose flavours are conducive to such switch-outs.

Since James had already purchased the Union Jack muffin-tin liners, we went ahead and used those instead of my usual habit of not using liners at all in favour of butter (or canola spritz). This of course made cupcake removal from the tin a much speedier process, which helps when you are making two batches even if you have two tins. One of the cupcakes got a doubled liner, and so the flag didn't darken quite as much under the influence of the dark, wet batter, so that one was extra patriotic, I guess. Certainly a touch more photogenic.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Orange Truffle Bailey's Icing

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake from Feast

250 ml Guinness (or stout of your choice)
250 grams unsalted butter
75 grams cocoa powder
400 grams plain granulated sugar
142 ml sour cream
2 large eggs, beaten well
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
275 grams cake flour (405 flour, in Germany)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Orange Truffle Bailey's Icing

This recipe can be halved for smaller batches of cupcakes

500 grams (4 cups) icing sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
125 ml Orange Truffle Bailey's Irish Cream (or regular Bailey's, or ordinary dairy cream with a splash of vanilla, if you prefer)

Obviously, you need a good digital scale to take on this recipe. Start with a large saucepan, because otherwise you will need to transfer to a larger bowl mid-mix, as we did. Learn from our mistake!

Preheat your oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place liners in the muffin wells of your 12-cup tin, or, grease the tin thoroughly if you are not using liners.

Warm the Guinness in a large saucepan, and slowly add the butter until it is all melted. Remove from the heat.

To the warm Guinness/butter mixture, whisk in the cocoa powder and the sugar, and whisk until smooth. It's a lot of sugar, but don't be scared: it's making 24 cupcakes.

Separately, mix the eggs and sour cream together until smooth, and then add the vanilla extract and beat that in well, too. Yes, it's a lot of vanilla extract - it has to stand up to some pretty intense flavours, so just go with it.

Also separately, combine the flour and baking soda, and whisk together. There's no salt in this recipe, and it doesn't appear to need it. This seems weird to me, but it turned out just fine.

To the Guinness/butter mixture, add the eggs/sour cream/vanilla mixture, and stir until just combined. Then add the flour and baking soda mixture, and carefully whisk that in until just combined, preferably using a folding motion to minimize any unnecessary gluten development. When there are no longer any streaks of flour (the mixture will be a bit bubbly from the combination of stout and baking soda, but don't worry about it), spoon the batter into the waiting liners. Don't fill them completely to the top, just about 3/4 full is perfect. You should only get half way through your batter for the first batch. If you have a second muffin tin, you can prepare it while the first tin is in the oven. If not, you'll have to wait until the first batch comes out and the cupcakes are removed before you can proceed to get the remaining batter spooned out.

Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes. If your oven is a bit slow, they might need a smidge more - you can always test them for doneness with a strand of spaghetti or a toothpick. Or, you know, a cake skewer. If they are ready, pull them out of the oven, and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, remove them from the tin and place them on a cooling rack.

When all the cupcakes are cooked, and all have cooled to room temperature, it's time to make the butter icing.

In a medium mixing bowl, place the icing sugar, the butter, and the Bailey's (or cream and vanilla). If you have an electric mixer, use it on high until the mixture becomes a thick, spreadable icing. If you are using manpower, as we were, we found using a wooden spoon far better than a whisk for thoroughly combining everything. If the icing is too stiff, you can add a bit more liquid of your choice - more Bailey's, or more cream, until it reaches the desired consistency.

When the cupcakes are cool, cover the tops with frosting in whatever manner you like. I don't currently have a piping bag, so we simply used table knives to sort of spackle the icing onto the top of each cupcake. We probably could have added more Bailey's and made the icing a little smoother and swirlier, but these were going to be transported, and a stiffer icing seems to hold up better under those circumstances, I feel.

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